This book’s main idea is about psychopaths – them being always among us with proportion going up from 1% of general population to significant share or even majority among high achievers in such areas as politics, management, and, obviously, criminals. This sounds quite plausibly to me, even if author’s selection of individuals for detailed review provides only anecdotal confirmation. Most interesting to me was a simple test that supposed to identify person as psychopath. If looked at as personal characteristics, quite a few of them seems to be very beneficial for some careerist who is moving up in hierarchy at any cost. It is definitely consistent with all that we know about great leaders in history and how they usually come to power.
From my point of view it is just another reason to limit power of hierarchical structures such as big businesses and government as much as possible because it is the one and only real way to avoid impact on one’s life of some psychopath in power.
Here is the test:
1 Glib and Superficial Charm The tendency to be smooth, engaging, charming, slick, and verbally facile. Psychopathic charm is not in the least shy, self-conscious, or afraid to say anything. A psychopath never gets tongue-tied. They have freed themselves from the social conventions about taking turns in talking, for example.
2 Grandiose Self-Worth A grossly inflated view of one’s abilities and self-worth, self-assured, opinionated, cocky, a braggart. Psychopaths are arrogant people who believe they are superior human beings.
3 Need for Stimulation or
Proneness to Boredom An excessive need for novel, thrilling, and exciting stimulation; taking chances and doing things that are risky. Psychopaths often have a low self-discipline in carrying tasks through to completion because they get bored easily. They fail to work at the same job for any length of time, for example, or to finish tasks that they consider dull or routine.
4 Pathological Lying Can be moderate or high; in moderate form, they will be shrewd, crafty, cunning, sly, and clever; in extreme form, they will be deceptive, deceitful, underhanded, unscrupulous, manipulative, and dishonest.
5 Conning and Manipulativeness The use of deceit and deception to cheat, con, or defraud others for personal gain; distinguished from Item #4 in the degree to which exploitation and callous ruthlessness is present, as reflected in a lack of concern for the feelings and suffering of one’s victims.
6 Lack of Remorse or Guilt A lack of feelings or concern for the losses, pain, and suffering of victims; a tendency to be unconcerned, dispassionate, coldhearted, and unempathic. This item is usually demonstrated by a disdain for one’s victims.
7 Shallow Affect Emotional poverty or a limited range or depth of feelings; interpersonal coldness in spite of signs of open gregariousness.
8 Callousness and
Lack of Empathy A lack of feelings toward people in general; cold, contemptuous, inconsiderate, and tactless.
9 Parasitic Lifestyle An intentional, manipulative, selfish, and exploitative financial dependence on others as reflected in a lack of motivation, low self-discipline, and inability to begin or complete responsibilities.
10 Poor Behavioral Controls Expressions of irritability, annoyance, impatience, threats, aggression, and verbal abuse; inadequate control of anger and temper; acting hastily.
11 Promiscuous Sexual Behavior A variety of brief, superficial relations, numerous affairs, and an indiscriminate selection of sexual partners; the maintenance of several relationships at the same time; a history of attempts to sexually coerce others into sexual activity or taking great pride at discussing sexual exploits or conquests.
12 Early Behavior Problems A variety of behaviors prior to age 13, including lying, theft, cheating, vandalism, bullying, sexual activity, fire-setting, glue-sniffing, alcohol use, and running away from home.
13 Lack of Realistic,
Long-Term Goals an inability or persistent failure to develop and execute long-term plans and goals; a nomadic existence, aimless, lacking direction in life.
14 Impulsivity The occurrence of behaviors that are unpremeditated and lack reflection or planning; inability to resist temptation, frustrations, and urges; a lack of deliberation without considering the consequences; foolhardy, rash, unpredictable, erratic, and reckless.
15 Irresponsibility Repeated failure to fulfill or honor obligations and commitments; such as not paying bills, defaulting on loans, performing sloppy work, being absent or late to work, failing to honor contractual agreements.
16 Failure to Accept Responsibility
for Own Actions A failure to accept responsibility for one’s actions reflected in low conscientiousness, an absence of dutifulness, antagonistic manipulation, denial of responsibility, and an effort to manipulate others through this denial.
17 Many Short-Term Marital Relationships A lack of commitment to a long-term relationship reflected in inconsistent, undependable, and unreliable commitments in life, including marital.
18 Juvenile Delinquency Behavior problems between the ages of 13-18; mostly behaviors that are crimes or clearly involve aspects of antagonism, exploitation, aggression, manipulation, or a callous, ruthless tough-mindedness.
19 Revocation of Condition Release A revocation of probation or other conditional release due to technical violations, such as carelessness, low deliberation, or failing to appear.
20 Criminal Versatility A diversity of types of criminal offenses, regardless if the person has been arrested or convicted for them; taking great pride at getting away with crimes.
Sometimes, actually quite often the simple substitution of words in a text with different and more exact meaning of these words makes very clear underlying understanding or misunderstanding of the text by both author and audience.
I would like to offer such an example. We hear all the time from Democratic Party about greatness and benevolence of the government and from Republican Party about inefficiency and sometime even malevolence of the government. It seems to me that both sides would be much clearer if they would use instead of the word “government” two words that designate human beings who really are the government – bureaucrats and politicians. Here is the small piece of Obama’s commencement speech where such substitution is done with resulting wonderful clarification:
“And that’s precisely what the founders left us: the power to adapt to changing times. They left us the keys to a system of self-SERVING BUREAUCRATS AND POLITICIANS—the tool to do big and important things together that we could not possibly do alone. To stretch railroads and electricity and a highway system across a sprawling continent. To educate our people with a system of public schools and land grant colleges, including Ohio State. To care for the sick and the vulnerable, and provide a basic level of protection from falling into abject poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth. To conquer fascism and disease; to visit the Moon and Mars; to gradually secure our God-given rights for all our citizens, regardless of who they are, what they look like, or who they love.
We, the BUREAUCRATS AND POLITICIANS, chose to do these things together. Because we know this country cannot accomplish great things if we pursue nothing greater than our own individual ambition.
Still, you’ll hear voices that incessantly warn of BUREAUCRATS AND POLITICIANS as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s the root of all our problems, even as they do their best to gum up the works; or that tyranny always lurks just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave, creative, unique experiment in self-rule is just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.
We have never been a people who place all our faith in BUREAUCRATS AND POLITICIANS to solve our problems, nor do we want it to. But we don’t think the BUREAUCRATS AND POLITICIANS is the source of all our problems, either. Because we understand that this democracy is ours. As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but absolutely necessary work of self-SERVING BUREAUCRATS AND POLITICIANS.”
Now the unshakable believe of Barak Obama in ability of bureaucrats and politicians “To stretch railroads and electricity and a highway system across a sprawling continent. …To care for the sick and the vulnerable, and provide a basic level of protection from falling into abject poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth” sounds absolutely ridiculously and clearly contradictory to any known fact about American history. Add to this a self-evident fact that Barak Obama loves bureaucrats and politician most when he is the top dog in this pack and true nature this man and his party could not be missed.
It is a nice little book by professional debater and opinionator designed to expire his future colleagues. There is a lot I would agree on with Hitchens except for one small thing – it kind of easy to be a contrarian if one gets paid for it, has significant support of surrounding people and no real risk to suffer consequences from “establishment”. In other words in well developed democratic state when attacking existing order verbally or in writing is a very secure and even beneficial career choice. But it there was nothing courageous about it.
Attacking Christian church, Western Imperialism, Capitalism, and such is not only was save, but actually career enhancing activity in the second half of XX century for western intellectual. Even for many intellectuals in Eastern block acting against existing socialist regimes it was not as dangerous as one would think. The common attitude of educated part of population to these regimes could be characterized as “finger in the pocket” with safety pretty much insured as long as finger remained in the pocket.
More important question that Hitchens failed to address was selection of causes between evils. Granted Hitchens does put socialist murderous dictators like Stalin in the same bucket as Hitler (who, by the way, ideologically was not that far away with his National-Socialism from Stalin’s international socialism). However he fails to distinguish between regimes for which murderous activity was necessitated by core logic of regime from regimes for with such activity was just a feature.
For example he is still proud of his support of North Vietnam completely missing the fact that North Vietnamese communist regime was based on statist ideas which by the time of war proved to be murderous to great number of regular people through artificial famines, overwork, and other miseries that followed inevitably with government control over economy. Comparatively the corrupted, undemocratic, and incompetent regime of South Vietnam with all its evil left regular people more or less economically alone content with robbery rather then ideologically motivated slavery and annihilation.
The western idealists – socialists will never accept their own guilt in innumerable killings of Soviet, Chinese, and many other regimes that they enabled by their support, but it would nice if they would at least understood the connection. Hitchens probably more then other getting close to such understanding, but he seems to be not able to step over this threshold.
Last Friday the milestone event happened – Dow Jones have got over 15,000. At the first glance this happy event is kind of strange. The American economy is not moving anywhere for many years. Official unemployment at 7.5%, but according to Shadow Government Statistics which calculations include all unemployed is really about 23%. GDP growth is something between weak and non-existent and big new tsunami of Obamacare is coming closer and closer carrying significant potential for a huge economic destruction. So why is Dow so happy?
Long ago professor of economics Ben Bernanke had got some notoriety proclaiming that in case of economic downturn government should increase money supply by all means necessary even dropping bags with money from helicopters on American cities. As result Bernanke got nickname “Helicopter Ben” and now as Chairman of FED he remains true to his credo and continue pumping money supply up even if there is no positive result to be excited at.
On the bright side the inflation is relatively tame at least according to official statistics. However official statistics mixes a lot of staff together hiding areas where real inflation is growing due to increase in money supply. It has impact on goods and services consumed by regular people, but not as big as it used to be because high level of productivity allows one productive person easily provide goods and services for a dozens, including useless and even harmful for production bureaucrats and politicians. The demand for such goods and services did not decrease dramatically because, contrary to old great depression, low income consumers had their labor income substituted with benefits from extended unemployment and social security disability. So current money oversupply has relatively low impact on their prices.
So the extra money created by Bernanke’s FED is going into assets especially relatively inflation proved assets like gold and stock market. Hence Dow’s wonderful growth is nothing more as reasonable way to defend wealth against inflation. As optimism goes this definitely demonstrates optimism about stability of American political system so companies shares will not be confiscated and government will support really big companies even if they fail in business as GM or big banks.
The simple result is that companies are sitting on trillions of dollars and not investing in business expansion, but rather continuously increasing dollars numeration of their assets. The same continuous increase of dollar numeration applies to government debt. The downside is economic stagnation when productive people have decreasing incentives to expand because of continuous threat of government wealth confiscation via taxes, while unproductive people are deprived of opportunities to become productive and increase quality of their lifes.
For me it looks like this low moving disaster will continue at least until after election of 2014 when political dynamics could change to benefit productive part of population and business expansion would start moving the way it used to be.